The BBC reports that bicycle thefts in Cardiff are up by 57% in just five years. Part of this is likely to be down to there being a lot more of us now, but there’s far more to it than that.
According to the figures, obtained via a Freedom of Information request, most thefts were reported in the city centre – 1,736 in total over the five years.
The ward with the second highest number of stolen bikes was Cathays with 1,003 thefts, followed by Cardiff Bay with 664.
Bike theft isn’t unusual in any city in the world and places like New York even have heavy-duty locks that bare their name.
With more bikes, statistically speaking you will see more thefts. Even Amsterdam, which has a far more ingrained cycling culture than we do, has to deal with bikes going missing.
On average, 311 bicycles are stolen here each day according to the ANWB.
The trouble is, many people here in Cardiff are just discovering cycling. Let’s be completely honest, it hasn’t been a particularly pleasant place to cycle for many years and, it still isn’t. We do have a strategy now, but we’re not aware of any shovels being raised in an attempt to start implementing it. It is early days, admittedly.
Yet, experience will teach you, be that through having bikes stolen in the past or by speaking to people who have, that a good lock is critical to keeping your bike. Not only that, you need to be smart with how you use that lock. If you only have one lock you should lock the frame & back wheel, not the frame alone and certainly not the wheel alone. You’ll often see a really nice D-lock attached to a lonely wheel on racks around Cardiff. If you have a really nice bike, or just one that you love dearly, two locks would be best. Lock the frame and back wheel through the seat stay (the diagonal tube) with the better of the two locks, plus the front wheel & frame with the other.
We’ve talked in more detail about bike security before, as well as security at home –something that is often overlooked. We implore you to take heed of that advice. If you are still locking your bike with a £5 cable lock, it is definitely going to get stolen.
There is a motto to live by –spend 10% of the value of your bike on your lock(s). So, a £1000 bike should have a £100 worth of locks –that’ll probably be two Gold-rated D-locks at today’s prices.
For when our locks do fail us –let’s be fair, they’re more of a delaying tactic than a foolproof device, we need to be able to help the police with their enquiries. South Wales Police hold frequent bike registration events at various places around Cardiff. It is worth keeping an eye on their Twitter and Facebook accounts to see when the next one is coming up. Alternatively, the Bike Shed is now providing bike registration.
Failing that, you can also use a service like Bikeregister to achieve the same thing. You’ll need to make a note of the number engraved on the underside of your frame, near the pedal cranks before you sign up, but you’ll then be on the database in the unfortunate event of your bike being stolen.
The Cardiff Context
It’s all very well having the best locks money can buy, but if you are locked to an insecure post it isn’t going to help very much. We do need more bike racks, particularly around the Hayes. Yes, it will be nice to have all those extra spaces at Central Square, but we don’t all go to Central Square every day and we need alternative options.
Many of the racks we have are unused because they are in the wrong places, not because there isn’t demand. You see signs of this unmet demand around the main shopping areas every day, with bikes chained to benches and signs in many cases.
Racks that are hidden in secluded places are a big no-no, simply because they give thieves time (rather like your garden shed, by the way) to work on your lock with bolt cutters or an angle grinder. Unfortunately, a good number of these racks are indeed hidden away, such as the ones pictured above on Charles Street and around the corner behind M&S.
With Cathays being one of the areas with the highest rates of bike theft in Cardiff it presents a particular challenge. Cathays is full of terraced houses, often shared between relative strangers or converted into flats. There is very often little room to store a bike inside the house, so they are left in front or back gardens, where they get stolen.
However, one option that some more enlightened areas are trying is the Bike Hangar, such as they are seeing in Waltham Forest. Unfortunately they are often blocked at the planning stage by councillors and local busybodies who do not cycle. The main objection seem to be that they are ugly (and the Fiat Multipla isn’t?) and they take up a parking space. Their ability to securely hold a dozen bikes is often forgotten, sadly.
However, as we keep saying, nothing happens without enough people asking. We’re pretty sure Cardiff University’s enormous student population could make a considerable noise about getting bike hangars installed in Cathays if they put their heads together. It would only take an email or letter to their local councillor or the councillor responsible to transport. Were they to get a few hundred emails from residents asking for hangars, they will then have the support they need to install them.